Proud to be Seen With Me

I remember my first Mother’s Day well. I had a week old baby in my arms who could barely hold his head up and couldn’t say one single word yet. He had the softest skin, the sweetest little cheeks, toes and fingers. He had a hairline like and old man. Bald and appeared to be receding.

He couldn’t do a single thing for himself. He depended on me to feed him, change him, bathe him and keep him warm. Yet my heart was a million times fuller than it had been just a week and a day earlier. I was BEAMING with pride!

This baby, MY baby was the most incredible thing I had ever laid my eyes on. I got excited over the most ridiculous things like newborn diapers, onsies with dinosaurs on them and tiny little toe nails. He took my breath away.

As I sat down looking over every little detail of him, the doorbell rang. I ran to answer it with my bundle of joy in my arms and opened the door to a delivery lady with a beautiful bouquet of flowers in her hands from my dad wishing me a happy first Mother’s Day.

“What a precious baby you have!” She said. “He must be days old!”

“One week!” I said absolutely exploding with pride and holding him at a better angle for her to see what I saw. I’m sure in her line of work, she’d seen hundreds of newborn babies and new mommas. But that didn’t stop me! I wanted her to get a GOOD look at him and tell me that was the cutest newborn baby she’d ever seen!

I tell you this not because Mother’s Day is approaching and you needed a reminder to go buy your momma a card, but because I wanted you to know the pride I had for my newborn baby that day. He was mine, a piece of me, my legacy, my flesh and blood. Years later he grew into an adorable toddler, curious preschooler and big brother to a sister whom I was equally proud of and melted over. Now they are 16 and 12 and my pride for them has only increased. They resemble me, their mannerisms are like mine, and their personalities are awesome! I love the uniqueness of them both and how they are their own person, but I also love how they are similar to me and fit right into their rightful places in our family.

Everywhere we go I am proud to be seen with them. They bring me joy, laughter and make our family complete. When I think of the way my heart swells with pride for my children, I can’t help but think this is how my Heavenly Father thinks of me.

I fit in His family. I am uniquely me, and yet I still carry the characteristics of my Father. He’s proud of me not for my accomplishments or how well I behave, but simply because I am His. Before I ever began my relationship with Him, He was proud of me, just like I was proud of that little baby who couldn’t even hold his head up. And like I was proud to show that brand new baby off to the florist, He’s proud to be seen with me.

The revelation of this truth for me broke off some heavy chains of shame, self doubt and lack of confidence. If He’s proud to be seen with me, I can be proud to be seen with me! No more shame, feeling like I don’t belong or don’t fit in. No more fear of being me! He’s proud of me people! And He’s proud to be seen with you too. Not because of what you’ve done, or what you can offer, but just because you’re you. He adores your toenails, your hands and feet, your hairline…even those that are receding. He loves everything about you and you never have to do a thing to earn it. He’s proud of you. I know like me, someone needs to hear this.

My prayer for all who read this post is that you will receive His pride and love for you. I pray you will know that it’s not what you do, but it’s because He created you and because you simply exist. You belong to Him and you have a perfect place in His family (Psalm 68:6). I pray EVERYWHERE you go, and in EVERYTHING you do, you know that He is proud to be seen with you. Even in your darkest places. I pray when you’re struggling in those dark and hard places, you will remember that He is still with you, and He is STILL proud of you, so much so He sent His Son for you. You are His. I pray you look for Him in those places, look for Him in the everyday ordinary things and know you are loved and that He is BEAMING with pride for you.

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Click HERE to hear the song that inspired this post. Pieces by Bethel Music 

Jesus Paid it All, All to Him I…?

If you’ve been in the church world for any amount of time, you may be able to finish the line from this song, if not, I’ll finish it for you…”Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.”

‘Owe’ is a strong word, a word that carries a certain weight to it. When I hear the word owe, I think of debt, I think of being in the red, not reconciled and unsettled. When we accept the gift of Jesus’ death on the cross, God accepts this as a payment for our sin. Paid in Full. Full…means everything, all paid up, good to go, free and and clear. Somewhere along the way in my journey this amazingly awesome FREE gift got twisted and I got confused. This song didn’t help much either. What do I owe Jesus?

When praying about working in ministry, God asked me why I ever got started in the first place. Why I thought a job in ministry was where I belonged.

My reply was immediate, I was so sure of it! “Because You saved me God! You rescued me from a self destructive pit of depression and despair. You gave me life when I thought mine was over. Why wouldn’t I want to work for you? I owe you my life because you gave me yours!” His response to me was one I wasn’t prepared for, and one I think about often now. “Baby, if  you owe me anything, then salvation isn’t free.” 

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I’ve spent the better part of 6 months trying to let that one sink in. “If I owe Him anything, then salvation isn’t free.” Yikes…when the realization of how much of my 16 year walk with God has been trying to pay Him back for the gift He gave me, I feel so silly.

This explains so much. Why I work at all stems from the lie that I owe God. I work because I owe Him, I go to church because I owe Him at least that much. I try and do good things and be a ‘good’ Christian because I owe him. I have to get my crazy issues under control because I owe Him. But the truth is, I owe Him nothing. Not one cent, not one minute of my life, not one thought, good deed, perfect behavior or good choice.

The moment I began to align myself with this truth, the power of the free gift of salvation actually drew me closer to Him, not further away. It didn’t become a free pass to do whatever I wanted. It made me love and go crazy for the One who would do such a thing for me.

The ‘it’ I’m referring to is GRACE. Grace drew me in, GRACE sustains me, GRACE keeps me coming back for more. Because of His GRACE, I want to do good things and with His power, I am doing, can do and will do those very things. It’s the same ‘it’ referred to in this Bible passage…“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. IT teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” Titus 2:11 – 12. IT = GRACE.

If you are anything like me, you probably beat yourself up over your failures and have trouble letting them go. But can I ask you this? If God doesn’t hold them against you, why do you? God calls you a son/daughter (Galatians 4:5-7) we don’t need to worry about the things we’ve done and are doing. We can remember who we are and how much we are loved. If you don’t believe it, ask Him to show you and to help you believe! He will not disappoint.

My prayer for this post is for anyone who reads it to receive every bit of freedom He has for you through the gift of His Son Jesus. I pray you work WITH Him and not FOR Him. I pray you let yourself off the hook and let His GRACE wash over you. I pray you let Him in, let Him draw you in and stop pushing yourself so hard. I pray you align yourself with His truth as He reveals the beauty and depth of His gift of salvation. From this place I pray you live your life, do the work He has joyfully given you to do and discover more of who you are and were created to be in the journey. Blessings to you my blog reading friends!

 

 

 

Feelings Vs. Truth

As I sit here writing this, my body is trying to call the shots. The anxiety I used to battle several years ago, has annoyingly and tormentingly crept back into my life. The very real feelings of hopelessness, chest pains, feeling boxed in, like there’s no way out and fighting just to breathe have become something I deal with from time to time.

Before we go any further, I want you to know I am writing about my own personal battle of “Feelings Vs. Truth”. Yours may look similar or completely different than mine. Either way, this is my journey and I hope and pray you are encouraged by it and know that you are not alone.

Anxiety and it’s cousin depression are stupid little parasites that creep into your life when you’re already down and at your worst. They come in like little thieves, rob you of your joy and purpose and make you doubt what you once believed in.  They know when to rear their ugly little heads to torment you, and when to lay low so you think you’ve finally beat them. I hate them, wish I’d never met them, and admittedly get sucked into their downward spiral from time to time.

I’m a “feelings” kind of person. I  have BIG feelings. My mother used to tell me I was sensitive as I was growing up. Something I learned to hate about myself. As a kid, big reactions became a direct response to my big feelings. I was over the top, explosive and emotional. All of which were frowned upon. Add emotional experiences and instability to my upbringing, and you’ve got a recipe for some less than healthy coping skills.

Eventually, I decided it would be better to take those big feelings and stuff them down somewhere where they wouldn’t come up and cause a scene. It hurt too much. I started to deny my feelings instead of acknowledge them. I started to ignore them instead of hold them to God’s truth. I built walls around them to keep people from hurting them and hurting me. But depression and anxiety kept feeding and getting bigger, as I kept their buffet fully stocked. I became miserable.

Depression and anxiety are greedy. They aren’t content with the free ride I was giving them and they wanted more. But, their cover was blown with a simple prayer. “Lord Awaken My Heart…”

Last year my family and I participated in a church wide time of prayer and fasting. The prayer for our church was for God to awaken our hearts, revive the places where we’ve gone numb. (“Awaken My Heart” message.I was blown away as God began to reveal to me the exact moment in time when I chose to turn my feelings off. The problem is, feelings can’t be turned off. God didn’t design us that way. They can however be ignored, misplaced and/or elevated as idols in our lives. I have done all three.

But wait, there’s good news! God has a plan for our feelings! He wants them. He wants us to take them to Him where He can acknowledge them, tell us how to use them, and hold them up to His truth. When we submit our feelings to God, He brings truth and clarity.

Does this make the feelings go away? No, not always. I believed a lie that just because I prayed about my feelings, the good ones would be comforting and empowering and the bad or hurtful ones would disappear. God deals with things differently that I do, and differently than I’d like. Through these past few months of staying at home, I’ve learned that I can’t manipulate God with my feelings. I can’t say “I don’t FEEL you!” just to get Him to show up. While He cares about my feelings, they don’t always call the shots.

A few months ago, depression hit me hard. I laid in bed, begging God to pull me out of it. I begged Him to be able to FEEL His presence again like I have so many time before. Nothing…. I got nothing. The little depression demon began to whisper in my ear, “Where is He when you really need Him? This whole God, Jesus Christian thing is a joke…a big ole’ stretch to make yourself feel better when things seem out of control. Made up, nonsense. Where is He now?”.

I went to bed that night and cried myself to sleep. In the morning, I woke up with a song in my head. “Soon” by Hillsong serenaded me from the moment I opened my eyes until I realized this is what He had for me today. It wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted a hug, an embrace, but it was enough. Despite the song in my heart, for a long moment, I got caught up in the lies. My mind went to the darkest place it could go. A life without God. It broke me. I cried out to Him and told Him, “If I don’t have You, I have nothing. My whole life is based on You and who You say You are. I don’t want to live if I don’t have You.”

Then, somehow I knew I’d be alright. I can’t explain it. It took being at that bottom to realize how much He means to me.  No, the depression didn’t go away. I still felt lost and hopeless, but I had SOMETHING to hold onto. A song. I reached for my phone, pulled it up and let it wash over me. “Soon and very soon my King is coming” played over and over. Each time I let it sink in a little bit deeper. Eventually, I had enough to get out of bed. Even though He gave me this, I was still mad. It wasn’t enough. I felt like He was holding out on me. I told Him so. (If anything, I’ve learned that God doesn’t care if I’m angry. At Him or anything/one else. All He wants is for me to talk to Him about it.) He still didn’t give me what I wanted.

I had weeks with just a song and the support of my husband and Godly friends. They listened to me as I worked this thing out with God. I can tell you that now, I’m ok. I’m still waiting on that embrace I wanted so desperately, (even though I now know why He didn’t give it to me). I know depression and anxiety will eventually try their tricks on me again, but what God taught me in the process of the last battle, will get me through the next one. I’ll even go as far as to say that I am grateful for it. Grateful for the battle because it taught me more about Him, more about me and ultimately brought us closer together.

He showed me, feelings NEVER change the truth of any situation. His truth is solid fact, no matter what I may be feeling.

My feelings said “He’s not here”. His truth says “…Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. – Joshua 1:9

My feelings said “I’m going crazy. Depression is stealing my joy!” His truth says “I’ve given you a sound mind. The enemy wants to steal your joy. All he does is steal kill and destroy.” – 2 Timothy 1:7, – John 10:10

My feelings said “You left me, and abandoned me when I needed you most”. His truth says “Never will I leave you or forsake you. Just because you can’t feel me, doesn’t mean I’m not there.” – Hebrews 13:5

The truth is, no matter what I’m feeling, He remains. His truth trumps my feelings every time.  I will probably write about this again because I’m constantly learning in this area. I’m trusting in Him to lead me in a life where I am not ruled by my feelings. I want to be led by Him, not riding on my roller coaster of emotions! He is the constant…I am not. He is always there whether I feel Him or not. I am grateful for a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

 

A Million Thanks

I had the BEST time going through the letters the kids wrote before mailing them off to the A Million Thanks Organization . A part of my then job was to pick out a mission for the kids. Every quarter I chose some type of mission to help the kids put feet to their faith. This one was probably my most favorite. Why? Because I got to see the children’s interpretation of what they 164403_10200694074375061_1579201348_nwere receiving from God through the lessons every week. They poured out their hearts on paper, wrote some of the most sweetest, inspiring and FUNNY little letters and cards I have ever read. A million little pictures, letters and homemade cards for me to pour through and bundle up to deliver to unsuspecting soldiers.

I took a picture of this one for a few reasons. First, it’s so stinkin’ cute. “Vally Creak”?! Com’on! That’s precious. Also because the child that wrote it, was telling the super blessed soldier that was going to receive this letter how much he/she loved our church. My thoughts exactly sweet kiddo. I love “Vally Creak” too.

That’s why the past few months have been so hard. I knew this was going to change me. Stepping off staff has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. It really was my dream job. I had influence over nearly 1,000 kids every single weekend. Incredible. Something I’d prayed for after I gave my life to Christ.  He intrusted me with this assignment and when He said it was time to move on, my heart broke.

It was through a four month process when I realized a part of why He was calling me away.

On January 1, 2015 I woke up at my mother’s house at 5:00am to the smell of fresh cut grass and a picture in my mind of barefoot feet walking through some beautifully green grass. Then I heard the Lord say to me “In His heart, a man plans His course, but the Lord orders his steps.” Proverbs 16:9. A little bit confused, I fell back asleep and didn’t really think much more about it.

After returning home and getting back into our post holiday routine, we attended the first service of the new year at church. In this message titled “First”  (give it a listen sometime…good stuff!) a certain scripture was shared. Betcha can guess which one…yep, Proverbs 16:9. God gave me further revelation and showed  me that I had been doing things my own way for a while, and it was time to give Him back the job of leading and controlling my life.

So much easier said than done! The next few months were spent in deep prayer and many conversations with my husband and trusted friends. The end result? God was asking me to step down from my dream job to take a season of rest and receiving. Something I’ve NEVER done before.

August 27, 2015 was my last day on staff at Valley Creek. One of the most challenging, joy filled, spiritually growing jobs I have ever had. I miss a part of it every day. Now that I am into my 4th month of learning how to receive, I know I made the right decision to “follow the cloud”, and it does get better as time goes on, but I miss it. I miss the people, the mission, and the joy of bringing the gospel message to hundreds of kids every weekend.

This new adventure has already taught me countless lessons that I wouldn’t have been able to receive had I ignored God and stayed, so I wouldn’t trade a single second of it for anything, but it has been hard. I look forward to writing future blog posts about these lessons. So, stay tuned for more!

In the meantime, I want to say…A million thanks to God, for knowing my heart, and for asking me to let go of the good so I can receive the great. A million thanks to my VCC friends/former co-workers and leaders, you guys amaze me and your hearts for Jesus are so contagious! And to my family and closest friends…A million thanks for praying along side of me, supporting me and talking this WHOLE entire process  out with me (even still) as I’ve gone through the incredible ups and downs in this past season. I can’t wait to see how this thing ends and what incredible blessings He’ll have for us all in it!